Do you wish to question your messengers as Moses was questioned before? Whoever prefers disbelief to faith loses his sense of direction. Many of the people of the Book wish, out of envy, that they could turn you (new Muslims) to disbelief after you believed, even though the truth has become clear to them (as well). (Believers are advised to) be thoughtful and forgiving until God resolves this affair (difference in faith and perspective) and (realize) that God is ever Powerful over all things.
Maintain your prayers and give Zakat (obligatory charity of 2.5% of your assets). Whatever good you deposit for yourself, you will find it with God. God observes what you do.
They say, “Nobody will go to Heaven except the Jews or Christians.” These are their self-serving desires. Ask them, “Bring your proof if you are truthful.” (On the contrary), whoever submits to God wholeheartedly and is good (to others), he will have his reward from his Lord; for him there is no fear or grief.
Here, Muslims are asked not to behave the way the Jews behaved with Moses when they asked deceptive and unnecessary questions and made unreasonable demands, such as to see God face-to-face, only to delay or fall short in obeying God’s command (2:55, 67–70). It is through these actions that they only demonstrated their lack of faith or lack of willingness to accept faith in God wholeheartedly. Muslims are asked not to commit the same mistakes, as they were tempted to behave as such by their Jewish neighbors in Medina at the time.
Many conservative Muslims are acting like Jews and Christians, saying that only Muslims will go to Heaven. As God says here, the true criteria for receiving this reward is deep and demonstrated belief and action, not self-claim. In another part of the Qur’an, God rebuked some Muslims when they claimed to be believers. God’s assertion was that yes, they have declared to be faithful, but true faith was yet to permeate their hearts. Just like people of other religions have gradually strayed away from the true guidance, some of that has happened among the Muslims, no doubt, even though the Qur’an itself has stayed untarnished, thanks to God’s promise to preserve it and to Muslims’ diligence worldwide to deter any attempts to interfere with the content of the Qur’an, as some forces had attempted to do so before. The purity and preservation of the Qur’an does not necessarily translate into a purity of thoughts and commitment to follow through with its teaching and values. Our leadership, our scholars, and our communities need to make sure that we do not go down the same path as the people of other religions. Our current conditions, in terms of lack of proper education and rule of law, lack of unity, and consensus among many Muslim nations and communities, and Muslims’ adherence to a variety of cultural affiliations (even in the face of contradiction to Islamic teachings) pose serious challenges to our ability to serve mankind as people of faith and upholders of truth.
As we question the motives of people of other faiths, we also need to reflect on our own motives; perhaps without realizing it we have begun to act like them, but under the banner of being a Muslim.
It is important to repeat how critical it is for us all to do a self-assessment and focus more on what we do and less on what we say or look like. Too many of our children and people in general are taught to do things based on prevailing customs and values derived from pre-Islamic traditions and not on the teachings and values derived from the Qur’an. This and a lack of education, economic empowerment, and well-established civil societies are the major challenges faced by Muslims and the human race at large. The Qur’an is very clear when it says that Muslims are a nation created to benefit humanity so that we can (1) uphold truth and justice, (2) eradicate falsehood and injustice, and (3) establish the worship of God. One wonders how far we have deviated in regard to these three central responsibilities and priorities.
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*Definitions can be found in the Glossary*